How important is work?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Why Do Americans Work So Much?

Economist Benjamin M. Friedman studied why “increased productivity has not translated into increased leisure time”.  One reason may be that because of economic inequality, the gains of increasing productivity are not widely shared.  But that’s not the whole explanation, because rich people work very hard.

… he theorized that for many top earners, work is a labor of love. They are doing work they care about and are interested in, and doing more of it isn’t such a burden—it may even be a pleasure. They derive meaning from their jobs, and it is an important part of how they think of themselves. And, of course, they are compensated for it at a level that makes it worth their while.

Is there a danger in eliminating the need for work?

Mickey Kaus fears a future in which robots do all the work and we, consequently, have no basis for self-respect.
“Evolutionarily, we are designed for work. We are unhappy when we’re not working. We become a sociopathic bachelor herd…. What do we do with all these people who have no productive work?”

Even if robots don’t eliminate the pressing need to work for money, would a universal basic income cause more people to forego employment?  Earlier this month Switzerland overwhelmingly rejected a plan to give a guaranteed monthly income to all residents.

The Dream—Or Is It a Nightmare?—of No Work

Work gives people something welfare never can. It’s a sense of self-worth and mastery, the feeling that we are in control of our lives. This is a source of abiding joy…. Studies show that people who receive public support are twice as likely as those not receiving public support to report feeling worthless. “Very happy” people work more hours each week than those who are “pretty happy,” who in turn work more hours than those who are “not too happy.”

Some people find it hard to imagine a fulfilled life without doing paid work or playing a key role in raising children.  Others find fulfillment in volunteer work.  What do you think?  How important is work?  Is it vital for self-respect and dignity?  Do we “need” to work?

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179 thoughts on “How important is work?

  1. People have a need for work, but it doesn’t have to be paid work. You need some purpose in life.

    I work to live, I don’t live to work.

  2. I think it’s interesting to talk about workers who have a linear relationship between hours work and money made (even at very small number of hours worked) but who also make a comfortable wage, and have little incentive for professional advancement. I would put myself in this category, and many nurses.

    How many hours does that kind person tend to work? In my experience, most nurses work 25 to 30 hours per week, at least in a hospital environment. Those seem to be the most sought after positions. I am scheduled to work 20 hours per week, though I often work a bit extra so it works out to about 30.

    I would love it if my husband could work three-quarter time without career repercussions. That doesn’t really seem possible, at this point.

  3. “I would love it if my husband could work three-quarter time without career repercussions. That doesn’t really seem possible, at this point.”

    That was the case with my jobs, and with my H’s current job. It’s hard to scale down. Part of it is that there are plenty of workers who are willing and able to work FT and in our cases employers would rather have that FT worker. Also, it’s hard to manage a client base. If I have 10 current clients and 30 potential ones in the pipeline, it’s unwieldy to cut down to 5 clients and still keep the pipeline at a healthy level. (Not sure if that makes sense, but it is a quantity/reputation thing.)

  4. Part of it is that there are plenty of workers who are willing and able to work FT and in our cases employers would rather have that FT worker.

    Right, it’s mostly a collective action problem. If we mandated 6 weeks and it was expected that people in totebag level jobs would take August off, then taking time off wouldn’t have a negative impact relative to anyone else.

    I do find it interesting that people here are saying working part time vs. having 6 or 8 weeks of vacation.

  5. I think that the “need to work” has several components – monetary (enough to sustain your chosen or desired standard of living), purpose (contributing to something outside yourself), and intellectual (challenging your brain).

    When I retired, I maintained the monetary and purpose through other activities, but it was hard to find something other than paid work that truly exercised my brain at the same level. Granted, most every professional job I have had has been weighted to the brain powered side. Maybe if I had had different jobs, I wouldn’t have had the same experience.

    IMO, the real reason that increased technology and productivity have not resulted in more leisure time is that the standard shifts upwards as well. Here are a couple of examples:

    1. Before vaccum cleaners, people generally beat their rugs twice a year. It was a large effort to haul them outside, hang them some way and then to wack them repeatedly. Now, we upped the standard for rugs to being vaccumed from twice a year to at least once a month or 6 times the previous standard. Overall, we likely spend the same amount of time cleaning rugs.

    2. When everything was still typed, you would let an awkward sentence or paragraph go, because re-writing it would require retyping from there through the end of the document. If you did decide to make changes, you went through it very carefully, so it only had to be retyped once.
    We edit, revise, reprint, etc. almost endlessly. Again, we changed the standard rather that reaping the “saved time”.

    Some people, like my dad, never had hobbies so their work was both work and their hobby. Others of us have both and can easily shift more time to the hobbies without missing work as much. I had no problem filling my time with things I enjoyed, I just felt my brain getting mushy.

  6. “I do find it interesting that people here are saying working part time vs. having 6 or 8 weeks of vacation.”

    Day to day flexibility is more important to me than taking chunks of time off, and would seem more acceptable to employers so they don’t have to fill large gaps.

  7. Part-time vs. longer vacation – Part-time allows you to manage care giving (kids or elderly) more easily than longer vacations. In some cases, it also allows you to do things you are interested in that are rarely offered at night/weekends when you would be off.

    Pre-kids and likely when kids are out of HS, I like longer vacations vs part-time as you can truly have down time.

  8. Day to day flexibility is more important to me than taking chunks of time off, and would seem more acceptable to employers 8=so they don’t have to fill large gaps.

    I disagree. If everyone took August off the impact on productivity would be fairly minimal as no one (client/vendor/ etc.) is in the office. A work world where you are working 8-12 and Bob is working 12-4 and Helen working 10-4 mon/wed/fri but 8-2 on Tue because she has Barre, results in a lot more dead weight loss as one part of the puzzle is always missing.

  9. Part-time allows you to manage care giving (kids or elderly) more easily than longer vacations.

    I would estimate that would be vastly more economically disruptive than everyone agreeing not to work for the month of August.

  10. The problem I see is that now with technology, one has to be avilable to work. So, even though overall I could take a month off in the summer and would like to, I can’t be unavailable for more than two weeks at a time. People try to solve this some what by taking time off when things are slow (like now) or working some what flex schedules. Not really leisure when you have to check in or respond to an emails, can’t be totally disconnected.
    I don’t think the economists of the past took into account this kind of middle ground.

  11. Rhett – If I worked in a small industry in a niche market, I would agree. I don’t see my international colleagues or financial markets generally being open to shutting down for a month. It’s closest to that in August, as a lot of Europeans do take off chunks of time, but the markets do not shut down. My European colleagues also already work part-time or 4 day schedules in addition to a more generous holiday policy. I simply want their schedule.

  12. It’s closest to that in August, as a lot of Europeans do take off chunks of time, but the markets do not shut down.

    They would be a lot slower if the custom was to take August off. But, that’s my point. It’s hard for any one person or company to make a change. But, if it was mandated, it wouldn’t’ be a problem as everyone would out of the office.

  13. Lack of options to scale down is why I’m a SAHM now. My industry is very all-or-nothing and 55 hour weeks are considered very light. My husband actually works for an employer that is considered “awesome” for work life balance and gets in by 7 and is rarely home before 8. He hates that- never sees the baby except on weekends.

    If I had the choice, I’d love to work 20-30 hours a week, but that does not exist. Plus, with the hours my husband works, one of us pretty much has to be available the rest of the time for parenting, household stuff, etc.

    I’ve often thought how nice it would be if we could job share, since we have the same qualifications and I’m perfectly capable of doing his job.

  14. Just an anecdote about job-sharing: Long ago, at the school where I used to teach, they hired a couple to share one FTE faculty position. They loved her and didn’t like him, but she insisted on the job-share. About 17 seconds after they got tenure, she moved down to San Francisco to go to UCSF medical school, and then did her residency as a psychiatrist, and now is a psychiatrist. The department was stuck with the husband teaching a few classes a week. She was technically still on faculty during the years I was there, but I never once met her.

    Needless to say, the department never hired a couple to job-share ever again.

  15. “But, if it was mandated, it wouldn’t’ be a problem as everyone would out of the office.”

    Who would be eligible for the August off option? Clearly not DH and I,and I can’t imagine shutting down banking or insurance. It would nice to have a month off from regulatory requirements, but I suspect that child support would need to be paid. I think that hospitals,and the entire healthcare industry would need to stay operational.

  16. I agree with Austin’s diagnosis. This works on the “want” side, too — there’s always someone else above you on the social ladder, always some slightly nicer thing that you think will make you happy when you get there, and then you get there and there’s something else. I think increasing inequality exacerbates this — or maybe increasing exposure to those .001% lifestyles through the media (Henry Ford could have afforded his own private island, but his island search wouldn’t have been on HGTV).

    From the employer standpoint, the reason full-time employees are preferred over part-time ones is fixed costs. Our break-even point on attorney work is maybe around 1400 billable hours (?) — that’s how much we need everyone to work to pay the rent, the utility bills, the IT costs, the insurance, the staff and associate salaries, the licensing fees, etc. Anything above that is partner profit; anything below that comes out of our pockets. So someone who works 60% is barely covering the costs of her own employment; if we all chose to work on that schedule, we’d be out of business. Now, obviously, this will be different in different industries, and we’d logically change some of the overhead if suddenly everyone wanted to go part-time (e.g., office sharing or telecommuting, less admin support, etc.) — but it’s been a pretty consistent level for the last decade or so and so probably a pretty fair representation of our ongoing costs of doing business.

  17. Clearly not DH and I,and I can’t imagine shutting down banking or insurance.

    Why not? Direct deposit would still go through but mortgages, business loans, car loans, ect would have to wait. If you needed to make an insurance claim they would just put you up at a hotel, into a rental car, etc. until September.

    Is that personally inconvenient ever few years? Sure. But, it’s worth having every August off.

  18. Rhett – You can’t exclude the care giving reality. If I need x hours per year to manage that care, I am fitting it in one way or another. You cannot outsource it 100%. That leaves me with three real options. Option 1 is that I work less than full-time and schedule my care giving around my work hours. Option 2 is that I take my PTO (or when I run out unpaid FMLA) to provide the care. In some ways, Option 2 is more distrubtive as it is less planned. Option 3 is I don’t work, even though I have 20 hours a week I could easily work, while the other adult works full-time or more.

    Many jobs “shifts” work fine – nursing for example. Other jobs assigning clients or cases or whatever sort of “widget” your work comes in so that employee handles that widget start to finish works also.

    Lastly, while the “office” workers can take that month off, it doesn’t cover the full economy – restaurants, hotels, attractions all still are staffed, as well as stores (grocery and gas at a minimum) and service providers from doctors to hair salons.

  19. Icelanders work even more hours than we do. I always remember seeing teens on road construction teams there, working at 9pm at night!

  20. I am a total sloth if I don’t have a structured day! I fear what I will be in retirement. Accountability and deadlines motivate me.

    I believe that sloth is not my unique trait and the majority of population is similar. Excess automation/robotization will only make the people lazy and unproductive.

  21. I worked PT when the boys were small, about 25 hours a week, and I loved, loved, loved it. I would have done that forever if I could have!

  22. “Lastly, while the “office” workers can take that month off, it doesn’t cover the full economy – restaurants, hotels, attractions all still are staffed, as well as stores (grocery and gas at a minimum) and service providers from doctors to hair salons.”

    Defense, intelligence, government, and supporting industries, unless we’re just going to bring all the carrier fleets home for August and tell North Korea to behave while we’re gone.

    And utilities, of course. We want to be able to power all the hotels and resorts where everyone is vacationing.

  23. August is literally the LAST month I would want off. Then we would have 350 million people at the Grand Canyon in one month. I’m not eager for my kids to leave, but I am eager to vacation during more temperate and civilized times of the year.

    I think that people need purpose. Whether that is achieved through work, hobby, volunteerism I think there is an innate need to do something of worth.

  24. RIo, I think a lot of mothers seek what you are talking about. We call it the holy grail. Interesting, challenging work at about 20 hours a week that allows you to flex your mind but also be more present for the family and home needs.

  25. Rhett – You can’t exclude the care giving reality.

    You’re arguing that the choice is between part time/job sharing or 6 weeks of vacation. I’m arguing that part time isn’t an economically viable option in most cases which 6 weeks of vacation is. So, you choice is 6 weeks off or nothing.

  26. If you can use the 6 weeks vacation a little here a little there, so you can deal with school holidays, doctors appts, and sick kids, then it would be OK. Not as good as real part time, but useful

  27. I work about 25 – 30 hours/week, and take 3 full weeks off each year, and probably another 10 days each year off (not consecutively) when the kids have random days off of school. It’s a great schedule.

  28. August is literally the LAST month I would want off.

    I assume you’d make the same argument in 1890 when they moved to make Saturday no longer a work day. You’d say to hell with that I should be able to choose the day I take off. The economic reality may be that your option is Saturday (or August) or nothing.

  29. If you can use the 6 weeks vacation a little here a little there, so you can deal with school holidays, doctors appts, and sick kids, then it would be OK.

    That’s massively more disruptive. You could make the argument that we should make Saturday a work day and give everyone one floating day off a week. That’s going to a lot harder to manage and more disruptive than the custom of having most people off on Saturday.

  30. As a contented and busy retiree I have a different perspective about the need for work. I think this may also apply to what I call the totebagger “junior retirees” (as differentiated from the parents of young kids on work hiatus) – people who were able to leave the full time workforce at 40-50 by reason of a buyout, business sale, real estate/investment holdings, pension, whatever. Most of us worked hard for pay for enough years to feel that we are not slugs. Our lives fill up with new things, including caregiving for elders, grandchildren, even spouses or late born children of our own. New hobbies or lots of time for old ones kept on the back burner for years. Volunteer commitments that are often more noodgy than paid work ever was. Time to read books, books, and more books. Time and flexibility to attend an event for which the working me would have sent regrets or hop on a plane for a weekend and visit far away family or friends. I resigned all my professional memberships, cancelled my subscriptions, let my license lapse, deleted my LinkedIn profile. There is no turning back. I do worry sometimes about keeping stimulated in my eighties, but I have a lot of time till then to figure it out.

  31. I like to work. I love my job and yes we have crazy hours and there’s really very little slow time. I’m currently trying to get my two best friends at work to take a road trip because once football season starts no one goes anywhere.

    I have come to realize that it’s ok that i work a lot because i also play a lot. My bosses know i’ll get my work done and so if i go to the gym in the middle of the day or leave early for an event they’re ok with that. I think part of the problem is there’s not one solution for everyone. so what works for me does not work for people with kids.

    my mother is retiring next year….this will be interesting. I need to find her some hobbies

  32. I like my job, and it does often give me a sense of accomplishment when I am successful. But if I inherited a few million from a long-lost uncle, I would quit this line of work forever. I’m not sure if I would do any paid work or not.

    Our financial planning strategy is based on wanting to have at least the option of discontinuing paid work in our mid-50’s if all goes well. What Meme is describing sounds lovely. I’d like to be available to take care of my parents if need be. And I’d like to join a tennis league, read, step up my gardening and cooking, attend lectures at the art museum, go to weekday day baseball games, and all kinds of other things.

  33. No, Rhett that isn’t precisely what I said.

    1. If I have caregiving responsibilities, I will find a way to fulfill them. One way, assuming there is another bread-winner, is not to work at all.
    2. Most caregiving responsibilities occur year round and cannot be shoved into a single 4-8 week period.

    Employers have choices too. When the pool of qualified applicants is low, they are more willing to be more flexible.

    One thing I see is that employers can’t always find full-time workers to do what they want/need so they hire consultants. Some of these folks (often subs) work part-time by working only the number of projects a year they choose. I have a friend that does this. Each time the larger company bids on a project, he has the option to be included or excluded from the proposal. Sometime he excludes because he has a conflict of interest or because he has another job or because he just wants some time off.

  34. Austin,

    I don’t think the question is 6 week or flexibility for most people. The question is 6 weeks or nothing.

  35. “Our financial planning strategy is based on wanting to have at least the option of discontinuing paid work in our mid-50’s if all goes well.”

    I had this conversation the other night with my brother as they put in a contract (successfully, it turns out) on the 8,000 sf house they’ve been stalking. He says his wife had better work until 65, at the very least, since they were still paying off her law school loans when they married, and then she stayed home with the kids for a few years. I messaged him a picture of where we’ll be:

  36. Milo – Exactly – not upgrading our house is one of the main components of this plan. I’ll wave to you from the shore!

  37. I am happy I landed at a workplace/group with flexibility. I would like to go back to my prior workplaces and see if things changed over the years or whether all the women left once they had kids.
    Many days I feel like I could ramp up as the kids enter high and middle school but some days I am tired and would like to have free time instead of work related travel, working over the weekends etc.

  38. “I’ll wave to you from the shore!”

    And you can, too, because we’ll be passing right through Chicago.

  39. “his wife had better work until 65, at the very least, since they were still paying off her law school loans when they married, and then she stayed home with the kids for a few years”

    This grates on my nerves. Maybe its how you phrased it. Did he offer to stay home with the kids? Since they are also his kids, how did he think they were going to be taken care of? It’s not all on her. The mom is not responsible for daycare; parents are.

    Now if they discussed it and she wanted to take time off to raise the kids, moreso than he expected, then she too is making a decision about their joint finances and maybe this was a concession on his part.

  40. they put in a contract (successfully, it turns out) on the 8,000 sf house they’ve been stalking

    Will they get as much enjoyment out of the house as you get out of the boat? I’m assuming they are just homebodies and that’s where they want to spend their money.

  41. “This grates on my nerves. Maybe its how you phrased it. Did he offer to stay home with the kids?”

    My brother’s all bark and no bite. Like me, only amplified. If she wants to retire at 55 (which she told me out of the blue at Easter) she will and they’ll be fine. But she doesn’t really have any hobbies or interests, either, so I don’t see why she wouldn’t just keep working.

    He didn’t offer to stay home because he was still in residency and for other reasons.

    “Will they get as much enjoyment out of the house as you get out of the boat? I’m assuming they are just homebodies and that’s where they want to spend their money.”

    Quite possibly. Well, let’s put it this way: I don’t see anything else giving them more enjoyment than the house. I think he would be absolutely miserable cruising the Intracoastal Waterway at 6 knots while figuring out what plantations they’re going to tour in Beaufort. So I fully support the house purchase for them, and he just wanted my opinion on it. He gets like that sometimes with big decisions, he’ll call me out of nowhere to ask me to list every possible downside I can think of.

  42. My husband would wilt and die if he didn’t work. I suspect that he will never really retire, just cut back, until he is no longer mentally able to do the job. I have to remind him to take days off. Not because he doesn’t want to spend time with us, but because he really likes to work. I like to be busy and challenged, but it is really nice not working for the man. I did a reduced schedule before I quit entirely and it was just all the work for part of the pay. No thanks!

  43. Milo – I’m sure your brother is a lovely guy and clearly what he and is wife agree is between them. You just touched a nerve in your description.

    Several of you have mentioned consulting work – how does one get that gig? That doesn’t sound like a gig for a lawyer. For lawyers, that strikes me as contract work, which from friends’ tales is drudgery.

  44. “You just touched a nerve in your description.” Understand. And I was just relaying as accurately as possible the conversation. But yeah, he’s touched a lot of nerves over the years, and he’s a great person inside, but very blunt and unfiltered. He means well. My mom and I agree that if he had been born a generation later, he would definitely have a diagnosis of something.

  45. That doesn’t sound like a gig for a lawyer.

    What about being “of counsel” with your own book of business?

  46. Consulting work in areas I am familiar with generally means having a niche knowledge base or skill set that an employer doesn’t need full-time and they aren’t will to pay for it full-time to keep it available.

  47. I know former lawyers turned consultants. I also know lawyers who are lawyers but really functioning as consultants most of the time. I don’t think a law background precludes you in anyway from that sort of job.

    I think the best way to get into consulting is to become really knowledgeable in a hard field. It’s got to be something you’re genuinely curious about, so you don’t burn out trying to keep up with the latest information, or you don’t mind spending the brain energy on the really complex problems. Then, you look for the clients who need your specialized help. If you can do that, it’s a good gig.

    Rhett might have another opinion.

  48. Milo,

    I’ve mentioned before, friends are surprised we are looking to downsize. Between MMM and Tiny House Hunters, I really want to keep my housing cost as low as we can so we have more options with travel, retirement, etc

  49. Most of the consultants I’ve worked with the last 5 years were experts with Oracle

  50. ATM – I found that there were two paths for consultant tax lawyers/accountants who are forced to leave public accounting firms or get eased out of corporate jobs at 60. Law partners who have strong reputations in our field don’t get eased out in the same fashion. One is to set up an LLC (either solo or with a complementary individual in the same boat) and go to work for former clients, do fill in work during searches for a new VP or Director of Tax. In a town like Boston, where everyone knows everyone else, it is not hard for a qualified individual to keep earning money working for his friends and former colleagues. Another way is to do slightly lower level contract work – getting a first position via a staffing firm or even as a W-2 no benefits part timer. It is not all that easy to convince HR to pay a W-2 hourly employee a 3 figure hourly rate, but it can be done. In my experience, the women accountants have little trouble finding work – they are usually not too status-conscious to sit in a cube not an office and do all the planning research and grunt work when a client wants multiple levels of service from a single consultant.

  51. Some examples:
    1. Auditing – smaller governmental agencies are required to have a certain amount of auditing done each year. Not big enough to hire someone full-time, so they hire per audit or for a 1-3 year period for X hours per year to cover the requirement. Some individuals or 1-3 person firms specialize in this and can make full-time work out of it.

    2. Anything where a “study” is typically done – the expertise in how to design and conduct the study, not be biased by being internal to the organization, and able to interpret results and make implementable recommendation. Most people I know doing this had a number of years in the field to be seen as the expert.

    How to get the gig? I think if you are in an industry that uses consultants, either through seeing who your employer/competitiors hire and/or through professional networking is how you find them.

    I had the opportunity to do this earlier in my career. I loved the idea, but the field I was in would require lots of travel to places that no one would usually choose to go. I passed and overall am just as happy.

  52. learly not DH and I,and I can’t imagine shutting down banking or insurance.

    Why not? Direct deposit would still go through but mortgages, business loans, car loans, ect would have to wait. If you needed to make an insurance claim they would just put you up at a hotel, into a rental car, etc. until September.

    Is that personally inconvenient ever few years? Sure. But, it’s worth having every August off.

    Well, for one thing, we are in harvest, so taking the month off would involve losing a significant portion of our yearly income.

    Insurance claims also include worker’s comp and claims from stupid employee actions. I do not have sufficient courage to face the prospect of putting off dealing with something like that until September.

    If the insurance company has taken August off, it is hard to understand who would be putting us up into a hotel, etc, because all those people are on vacation too.

  53. I am trying to downsize, slowly but surely. The other day I almost blew my top when my D bought a cute orange ice cream scoop. I just decluttered and organized our kitchen, and we ALREADY have an ice cream scoop. One of them has to go.

    Meme, your retirement life sounds perfect. I’m sure you are appreciating every single moment.

    “Most of us worked hard for pay for enough years to feel that we are not slugs.”

    That’s how I feel, but I know others my age who still want to work. Or, more commonly, need to work to keep up their lifestyle.

    I’ve never had a great experience volunteering. I can’t put my finger on it, but it just seems so much more effort than paid work. The ROI was low.

  54. “I’ve mentioned before, friends are surprised we are looking to downsize. Between MMM and Tiny House Hunters, I really want to keep my housing cost as low as we can so we have more options with travel, retirement, etc”

    Same. And just the work required keeping up with them. I’ve been thinking about that with boats. On some of the blogs and trip reports I read, the people are always washing/rinsing, and sometimes even waxing their boats pretty regularly. On the particular line that I really like, the picture I linked above is the 34, which seems like a nice size for two, even long-term. Moving up is the 44, which is VERY nice, but I’m imagining all the upkeep (and no 19-year-olds fresh out of boot camp to do it)

  55. I feel DH and I have good work life balance (mostly). I work 7:30/8:00-4:00 and he works 8:30-4:30. Neither one of us takes work home (unless we really need to). We are home for dinner, and if need be, can take off in the day to get things done. He’s got a little more flexibility than I do, but I can use stored comp/vacation/personal/sick time when needed. Except this summer. We are flat out with a major report. It doesn’t help that I’ve been sick this week AND have to be at work. I’d rather be dead at home.

    I would love more vacation time. I bank comp time so I have wiggle room for days where I just want to call in dead. Maybe when DS is older I may want PT work, but I don’t know. I like my work. It oscillates between working to live and living to work routinely. I can’t see myself a SAHP, or even taking more than 12-16 weeks off post-birth. I miss work.

    I’m also the primary earner, so that changes my perspective. Though, I wouldn’t want DH to leave his job. The health insurance is FANTASTIC.

  56. or you can go the other direction, the new junior-sized 30: (alright, I’ll stop posting boat pics)

  57. Rhett – I get what you are saying. Maybe I should have asked you the question more directly.

    If all my PTO is concentrated in a month, how do I handle the school days off, wanting to see a kid’s performance, family wedding in a distant state, etc.?

    Now I handle it because my PTO can be taken at any time.

  58. I think volunteering to fill your days is only fun if you have some kind of interesting expertise. For example, a friend who retired recently leads hikes out west. He had done that for years, but now that he is retired he can do more of them. Similarly, a lot of retired professors will teach a class each semester, or maybe run community classes in their area, or do some research project that they had never gotten to while working. But a lot of people who try to use volunteering to fill their days end up very bored because without expertise, they end up doing the tasks that the paid employees of the charity don’t want to do. Who wants to spend your days stuffing envelopes or making fund raising phone calls?

  59. I have met consultants and consulting companies at industry events that have my background and skillset and turned it into project-based work. I could see myself potentially doing that at some point. The thing that turns me off to that line of work is the selling. Seems like a lot of time is spent selling your services. I’m not really interested in either sales or heavy travel right now, so I’m fine in my current track right now.

    Milo – Have you read The Living Great Lakes? I very much enjoyed it & think of it whenever you talk about your future sailing adventure. https://www.amazon.com/Living-Great-Lakes-Searching-Inland/dp/0312331037

  60. wine – I love having a modest townhome but spacious enough to house the returning child on a temp basis with her own bathroom. I also hope to be spry enough at 80-something to occupy a 400 sq ft studio or smaller backyard tiny home/custom granny pod instead of being in a senior residence. Sometimes less is not more, but more is always more.

  61. Cordillera,

    because all those people are on vacation too.

    Says who? The rest of the first world manages to make it work, so it’s not like it’s some crazy impossible idea.

  62. “My husband would wilt and die if he didn’t work.”
    That’s what people said about me and DH. We had huge global jobs, thousands of people reporting to us, work travel, prestige, etc. etc. Then suddenly we decided we had accomplished what we wanted, had plenty of money and both retired before 50. Everyone thought it was unimaginable- we would be back for sure. 6 years into it, we’ve even started shedding our commitments like private investing, boards, etc. Now we feel like there isn’t enough time in the world to sail, fish, travel, paint, read, exercise, etc……

  63. The thing that turns me off to that line of work is the selling. Seems like a lot of time is spent selling your services

    Can you outsource that? In my business there are tons of companies that do nothing but match businesses up with consultants. They take a percentage in exchange for doing the selling, billing, payroll, etc.

  64. Cordelia,

    For a serious example. We were away last week and the hotel was staffed for the summer by kids from South Africa here on J1 visas. In the August example, you might have teens and college students doing the work while most of the hotel staff was on vacation. We certainly have millions of teens and college students that could use a job and need the money.

  65. I don’t have any desire to do anything with our house. We just got some landscaping done to take care of a few erosion issues. Previously we replaced all the windows and the roof. The next house we buy will definitely be smaller. I would like a new car though but a car wash makes my car look nice, so the thought recedes from my mind.
    I am having more and more conversations with my kids about work, saving, spending….

  66. And of course, you can just be confined to your office chair in front of an open window on this perfect June day and forced to keep posting by the tabby on your lap who is purring like a vacuum cleaner after ten days without his human.

  67. As one of the temporarily retired, I think work has a tremendous effect on self esteem and should not be given up lightly.

    LfB, does your 60%/1400 billable rule still hold if the person takes 60% of salary and no benefits?

    I’m hoping to work a very limited schedule once the second kid heads off to school this fall….

  68. In terms of my experience with consulting: You can work six months and take a month off, you can work a year and take a year off. You can work remotely with a ton of flexibility. What you can’t do is work 20 hours a week.

  69. I’m late to the conversation and can’t devote much time to this today (I have to work, since I wasn’t working the past few days!), but two thoughts:
    -As a labor economist, our simplest models involve a distinction between market activity (work) and non-market activity (leisure). But then we quickly make the point that work can require little exertion while leisure can be grueling. The broader point is that “work” is far more than job or career, extending to vocation, hobbies, ministry, etc.
    -It’s interesting/noteworthy that the first “institution” created by God, according to the Bible, is work. God works (and “rests”); we are made in His image; and we are commissioned to work. Beyond the theology, from observation, it seems like we are “built to work”.

  70. I work 20 hours/week and would be quite content to work less, including down to 0. DH works a lot when he’s traveling but is very flexible when he’s home and we both love that. We are not the types who “need” to work–well, financially we’re that type, but mentally we’re not.

  71. while leisure can be grueling

    I was thinking about the ideas offered to MM to bike through Iowa or Virginia in July/August and camp along the way. Short of being tortured by ISIS, I really can’t imagine anything more hellish. Yet, people apparently do it for fun. The mind boggles.

  72. “We are not the types who “need” to work–well, financially we’re that type, but mentally we’re not.”

    this is me!

  73. I second Eric’s comment about the theological argument that we are created for work. When I saw the topic today, I smiled, because that was the topic in DS1’s devotional last night.

    Mr WCE thinks he would love to retire and I hope I can have a job that provides the income we need in late middle age so he can. He wants to do woodworking, electronics, fishing, hunting, photography, etc. One of our challenges is that between his job and his hobbies, he claims to have no time for scutwork, and there is a lot of scutwork in our family right now.

  74. Rhett, I thought of you last year when I visited the most pristine pit toilet I have ever seen, at the top of some mountain pass. Retirees serve as campground hosts and I’m pretty sure this host cleaned the pit toilet several times daily. I thought, “That would not be Rhett’s idea of a fine retirement.”

  75. I’m pretty sure this host cleaned the pit toilet several times daily.

    #livinthedream

  76. Rhett – A few years ago, some extended family did a bike trip across the entire state of…wait for it…Kansas.

  77. My husband and I both work full-time. I’m out of the house 10 hours a day without adding in kid drop-offs / pickups on the way to or from work. All other things being equal, it would be nice to have more non-work time available, especially with the kids all being in this extra-curricular-heavy stage. I cherish those 3 day weekends.

    An interesting comparison on the need to work — if you have pet parrots (or related psittacines) you really need to give them toys they can solve and/or destroy to keep them busy, or else they go out of their minds with boredom. The smarter the bird, the more they need something to do all day other than nap and eat and preen. Puzzle toys are popular, where the bird has to figure out how to manipulate something or some things to get at a hidden treat, and also foraging toys, which are basically made to be destroyed but in a way that makes a bird feel like it’s accomplished something.

  78. HM, your point about pet toys reminds me that I was going to tell Sky that I use overripe bananas to make banana Kongsicles for our labrador retriever.

  79. My line of work, corporate finance (i.e. in-house financial work for an organization), looks like it will support my nascent idea that in a few more years, as few as five, more like 7-8, I will scale back to working 4 days/week, probably T-F, between Memorial Day and Labor Day while continuing to work full time the rest of the year. It would work out to me being a 95% employee so I’ll still accrue vacation (currently 5 weeks/yr) at that rate, and employer retirement contributions will be at that rate. This would give plenty of time for other pursuits. Assuming I’m right about that arrangement, I’ll either then expand the 4 days/week to the full year in the last couple of years before I really retire or make summers be 3 days/week (TWTh). Unless the pace/nature of work around here changes drastically all of the above is highly doable, especially the summer short weeks…It’ll just require me to do a little convincing of my boss.

  80. Milo,

    I’m all about biking though the tulip fields of the Netherlands or down the Rhine or through Napa from B&B and hotel to B&B and hotel in May or October. But biking and camping in the sweltering heat and humidity? Pure hell.

  81. Rhett – A few years ago, some extended family did a bike trip across the entire state of…wait for it…Kansas.

    Flat, check. And you probably can’t go five miles without passing the site of an atrocity from the Bleeding Kansas period, so history, check. Hmm, has MM considered it?

  82. And you probably can’t go five miles without passing the site of an atrocity from the Bleeding Kansas period

    “and this is where Quantrill killed these people, and over there is where he killed some other people, and we think maybe he had dinner right along here.”

    I had an ancestor whose wife rolled him up in a carpet to hide him from Quantrill. It worked; he survived.

  83. This is Dodge, the place where WCE claims the AP physics class is going even if some students die along the way.

  84. Very hot here, so I know Rhett will not be visiting anytime soon. Kids are in camp enjoying a taste of the Southern summer for which they will thank me when they get home, yeah right…

  85. WCE, you either have me confused with someone else or you have second sight, because I do not own a dog but I am dog sitting for the summer for a lab mix. I was expecting a lab/beagle or a lab/spaniel, but I got a lab/Newfoundland (friend’s dog I hadn’t seen in person).

    He is slowly coming to accept me as the alpha dog. He outweighs me by 10 pounds so that is going to be critical.

    Will try the frozen banana kongsicles!

    (Or I told this board about the dog and forgot – been up since 4 am and my brain is shot :) )

  86. @Sky: I think it’s the same — our profitability line is largely driven by fixed costs, like our rent, which stay the same regardless of # of attorneys. Associate salaries and benefits are probably the next largest chunk of cash, but benefits are a relatively small part of that. I guess if everyone went to 60%-no-benefits that might be significant enough to make a difference. Don’t think we’ve done the math that closely.

    Right now, I think I am in the “would love to retire” camp. I think some of that is from being worn down with the continuous logistical annoyance that comes with kids this age — things were *much* simpler when we had daycare 6:30-6:30 every day and we didn’t need to worry about after-school activities and sports and such. But some of that is my priorities changing. 25 years ago I just had SO much to prove, I wanted to go do Great Things; now I find every year I give less and less of a $%! about proving anything to anyone. I really have fingers crossed that we will be in shape to say sayonara when DS goes to college (which is 4 years earlier than we had previously been planning). Right now, even that feels forever away. :-)

    Consulting: my dad and mom are both doing this. He met a guy through work who gave project management seminars and was wanting to retire, so my dad took over the business from him. My mom started her own company with her former boss in the campus development office, doing the same kind of work for small organizations that they used to do for the college. Both involve a lot of travel — but neither has kids at home, and both want to keep working, so it is working well on both fronts.

  87. In my previous job, I worked 3 days a week. It was a government job, so, while the benefits were great, the pay was so so. I had a fairly unique set of skills and expertise, and it would have been difficult to replace me. Plus, I worked on some fairly critical projects that no one else wanted to learn enough about to take over.

    The flexibility was crucial when the kids were little.

  88. Sky, I didn’t know that you have a dog, but someone was asking a while ago what people did with overripe bananas besides banana bread.

    It’s quite likely I am confusing you with someone else on the overripe banana question. I do a lot of my blog reading while I am waiting for data to pull or a SEM to align and I’m a bit of a space cadet anyway.

  89. Recently I’ve decided that I would love to work 9-3 M-Th and work from home on M, Th, and in the office Tuesday and Wednesday. DH would never go for it, because I’d probably be doing the same amount of work for less pay. As the kids ramp up with activities, I think it’d be nice to be around more often. My job is super flexible already. The older I get the more I realize that I would rather be retired!

    I didn’t get a chance to post to yesterday’s conversation, but it brought back a forgotten funny memory of how frustrated my mom was at trying to address my wedding invitations correctly for all the different last name conventions. She also didn’t understand how anyone could be vegetarian. When some of her friends replied they’d have the vegetarian option, she was shocked.

  90. I’m the one who posted here previously about peeling and freezing ripe bananas, and using them to make smoothies.

  91. “But if I inherited a few million from a long-lost uncle, I would quit this line of work forever.”

    OTOH, perhaps that might make work more enjoyable. I’ve talked to several people who kept working well past their retirement eligibility, who were financially able to walk away from work at any time, and they all told me that being able to walk away at any time made work much more enjoyable– they didn’t have to take and cr@p, and their managers knew that.

  92. “And you can, too, because we’ll be passing right through Chicago.”

    With your boat on a trailer, sort of like the Michael Douglas character at the end of Romancing the Stone?

  93. This is a great topic, and very timely for my situation, and I’m disappointed that I’ve been busy and unable to read most of the posts or comment till now. I liked working, but stepped out for all of the usual reasons. Now trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I look forward to reading your comments, which is often the most intellectually stimulating part of my day.

  94. “With your boat on a trailer, sort of like the Michael Douglas character at the end of Romancing the Stone?”

    No. The Loop, Finn. The Loop.

    “the most intellectually stimulating part of my day”

    Obviously, just skip over my boating daydreams.

  95. At a previous employer, I worked with a couple people who were job sharing, and knew half of that share fairly well. She told me it was working out pretty well; most of the time they were slightly less efficient than a single person, because they needed to spend time passing information to the other, but that was offset by the wider breadth of knowlege they had relative to a single person.

    I think it worked out for her and the employer; after several years, she went back to full time, so the employer benefited from the continuity of employment. Not sure how it worked out for the other half of the share.

  96. Milo, I just learned something new. I never thought of Chicago as a port city, nor did I realize there was a waterway literally going through the city.

    All your boating musing has made me wonder: Was a love of boating a major factor in choosing your college, or did it result from your college and subsequent service?

  97. @Finn – I’ve heard that too. Working is much more enjoyable when you don’t have to do it anymore to pay the bills. We’ll see. It’s the choice that I really want, and then we’ll see what we choose when the time comes. I think I am more likely to continue working “one more year” or on consulting projects 6 months a year or something along those lines than DH, but you never know.

  98. @Milo – your first photo looks like the closing shot from Dexter.

    Scarlett – good thing to think about. The kids will be big before you know it.

  99. @ Curiouslurker – I’m sorry, I’m sort of skeevish about saying – what if people reading here are my clients?!?! Speaking very generally, I’m a consultant in a very small consulting firm and my partners and I focus on helping clients with a fairly narrow, specialized/technical part of their industry. I used to be in the industry myself, and then moved to the outside role in a big company, then helped form the small company with some other folks, which is why I get to set my own hours, have so much flexibility, etc.

  100. Finn – The Erie Canal is what really made New York City into the world’s financial capital, and New York the Empire State. Chicago is what grew up at the other end.

    As to your other question, definitely a little of both. But picking subs was possibly a mistake. When you realize that being OOD on the surface, driving from the bridge, wind blowing through your hair, dolphins surfing the bow wake, and you hate the thought of submerging in a few hours, for weeks of practice tracking things on sonar screens, the preferred option should have been obvious.

    Oh well.

  101. “He doesn’t even have an answer for why he does it, other than to say that he is curious what different cards charge in interest. He does work in finance so maybe there is some logic in his brain.”

    Do you not pay off your balance every month? I guess I assumed that doing so is a totebaggy habit.

    We do, so when I open the credit card offers, I don’t even look at the interest rates. I look at the rewards and whether or not there’s an annual fee.

  102. “New York the Empire State”

    When I was younger, I knew of the Empire State building, but had no idea it was named after that nickname for NY. Later, I assumed the state got its name from the building.

  103. Scarlett –

    No specific advice, but general encouragement.

    Given that your husband is going to work as long as he is able (even if he goes emeritus he’ll probably have some sort of ongoing lecture/consulting/mentoring work), and you took those 15 plus years out of the paid workforce already, in your case I think a second flexible career with 15 or more years of professional activity makes sense. I’m not sure how much older he is than you, and I estimate your age at less than a decade behind me. Sons and their families at a distance from your home do not afford the same sort of opportunity for hands on grandmothering as do local children or remote congenial daughters.

    A lot of pre- and early senior aged people do professional editing from home, but that would not provide the opportunity to encounter other minds or any sort of stimulating problem solving. Others embrace a semi-professional local helping role, but I am not sure that is a fit for your concerns. And in a university community, there is no shortage of very smart underemployed spouses of a wide range of ages and backgrounds looking for interesting work in research or less interesting work in administration, even though low wages are not a barrier. AARP has lots of literature on what people do in this stage of life – perhaps something might speak to you or give you an idea. And only you know whether you need local colleagues and a workplace or could be happy with something that is primarily remote from your home.

    I certainly did not have a well thought out life plan with bypassing the work world entirely as a young mom, entering with a vengeance at 40, and retiring after 22 years with an aging partner and a body past the stage where it could be trained for physical adventure. Despite all the curveballs life threw at me, I was fortunate to have intellectual and social capital and grit (qualities you have in spades) to see me through, and plenty of good luck mixed in with the bad.

  104. Meme (sorry I cannot figure out how to insert the accent),
    Thanks for the encouragement! I know we worked in related fields, though our paths have been quite different. What was surprising about my path was how much intellectual stimulation there actually was in raising kids, especially as they got older. (I was not a SAHM with a single infant, so have no idea how that would have gone.) At this stage, being “available” has been very useful with both the aging parents and young adult children, as well as with various volunteer gigs and friends experiencing difficulties. After my own cancer experience, I have become the “go-to” person for family and friends struggling with new diagnoses, mostly in trying to convince the local friends to flee the community medical facilities and seek care from an NCI-designated cancer center. “I’m not a doctor, but…” is a line I use a LOT.
    My brief experience in admissions work confirmed that I really work best with and for people who are smarter than I am. That was the case at my law firm, for the most part, and it’s sadly not the case in most departments of the university.

  105. Finn – we don’t carry a balance, he just simply likes to look at the numbers. Either that, or he likes to fling paper around just to drive me crazy.

  106. The markets are going to be ugly in the morning if the vote keeps trending like tonight. DH is some how sleeping and watching the results. The information that he is receiving from Asia is not pretty.

    so bummed.

  107. Finn, the cost differences are interesting, but they compared one-day passes so it’s pretty pointless. Nobody goes to WDW for one day. I read a blog post about the outrage when Disney raised the prices a earlier this year, and everyone totally missed the point. Any one-day passes Disney sells are just gravy for them. they are focused on the people coming to stay at the resort for a week who buy 6-day or 7-day passes.

  108. Wow on the Brexit victory. A close relative works for a London-based media firm and his colleagues were suffering great consternation.

    Watching the results on BBC last night was entertaining. One pundit/former politician bemoaned giving voters the choice in such an important decision. He basically said the ignorant peasants are in no position to take on such an important responsibly. His colleague sarcastically responded that it’s called “democracy”. I could see a similar exchange taking place on American TV, except couched in more politically correct language. It’s easy for me to see why the peasants are angry.

    What is the biggest negative effect at this point? A big hit to the British economy, and repercussions spreading to other countries? US futures plunged earlier, and are still down.

  109. The parallels to our own election, at least as the NYT presents them, are shocking.

    And if this dooms the stock market for good, I can do the Loop like this guy did, in a 28-foot de-masted sailboat alternating between two 2-hp Honda outboards.

  110. There are parallels to our election, but obviously the biggest difference is that our election will be decided by the electoral college vs. a popular vote.

  111. CoC,

    Scotland voted 62 to 38 to stay in the EU so their leaders are meeting tomorrow to restart the process of leaving the UK and staying in the EU.

  112. I think the Brexit vote is a harbinger of where the Trump/Hillary contest will end – the elites want Hillary, but the non-elites will take their chances with Trump.

    National pride is a powerful force, even when the elite caste tries to stamp it out.

  113. From the NYT:

    The Leave side warned that remaining would produce uncontrolled immigration, crime and terrorism, with hordes pouring into Britain from Turkey, a country of 77 million Muslims that borders Syria and Iraq and hopes to join the European Union.

    From yesterday’s Daily Mail:

    French riot police with loaded tear gas guns chase a group of masked migrants away from boarding British lorries in a tense two-hour standoff in Calais

    I didn’t realize this was still going on.  It’s hard to explain this away to concerned voters.

  114. Positive news, yesterday was the last day of school so I didn’t have to prepare a lunch.

    DD and her friends do not like to buy lunch because they don’t want to wait in a line since it cuts into the brief time they have to eat before recess.

    Do you prepare your kids lunch, or do they take care of it?

  115. Lauren – I made the kids’ lunches for years, then had them make their own for another number of years. For DD’s last year next year, I’ll likely return to making it for her a few times/week, and she’ll buy lunch (off campus) a few times/week with friends. This is one of those chores that seems to be way more of a pain for DD than for me. For her, it’s a total drag but for me, it’s a labor of love. .

  116. National pride is a powerful force, even when the elite caste tries to stamp it out.

    I don’t think that’s the whole story, though. It’s also feeling ignored and silenced. I’m about to lose any Leftist cred I ever had, but I totally understand why Europeans are uneasy about the huge immigration from the Middle East. If the peasants object at all, they get beaten into submission by the elites telling them it’s a humanitarian crisis (which it is!) and immigration is all good so shut up. But if I were a peasant I’d be uneasy about all the immigrants from countries with such different religious, moral, and political backgrounds suddenly coming into the country.

  117. DS now has access to a microwave at school so he takes a microwaveable wrap usually. He wants his lunch to be hot. The cafeteria is crowded and DS still has to make mature healthy lunch choices. I’ll be glad when I don’t have to deal with this. I make DD’s lunch. She lets me know what she wants, no issues there.

  118. We pack a lunch for DS. I started packing my own lunch when I was in about 4th grade, but in MS and HS I mostly bought a lunch at school

  119. DD, back when my family went to Disney in the early 90’s, we were at the park 3 days, one day at Magic Kingdom, one day at Epcot and one day at Hollywood Studios.

  120. Louise,

    I saw that. I found this interesting: For example, among the high-ranking executives who sit on the firm’s 41st floor are alumni of American University, Hamilton College and George Washington University, Mr. Horwitz noted. Harvey Schwartz, the firm’s finance chief, is an alumnus of Rutgers University.

    I also think Goldman is trying to spin it a bit and the reason they are looking at lower ranked schools is because they can’t compete with Silicon Valley.

  121. Rhett – also there was negative publicity with young analysts being over worked and dying from it.

  122. I agree with Rhett. The cynical view is that firms like Goldman are wasting resources on entitled snowflakes who don’t need to pay off student loan debts and are using the banks as one more credential in their quest to find fulfilling and meaningful work. Or maybe as their own kids get shut out of the HSS lottery, they are realizing that other universities produce solid recruits.

  123. Scarlett,

    I think it all comes down to dollars per unit of effort. Goldman used to be able to offer X dollars per hour. Now it can only offer 0.7X while Google and Facebook are offering 1.2X*.

    * Looking on line a junior analyst at Goldman can be expected to work 7am to 11pm up to 7 days a week. Google looks like more 7-5:30 or 10 to 8pm and usually no weekends.

  124. Google and Facebook let their workers keep in dressing like kids. The banks still insist that they dress like adults. Maybe that is part of it.

  125. This may be related to my utter lack of real knowledge about career paths in finance, but I think there is a difference in potential upside. (I would argue the same is true of law, as well, thought I don’t really have any experience with that, either).

    For the average computer job, the starting pay is high (high five figures out of college, maybe low six). The work seems easier than finance. However, there is not a clear path to being really financially successful. An entry-level coder at Microsoft/Google (or even worse, a SysAdmin at some quasitechnical company) has no clear path to making 500k. Certainly, some go on to do that (likely by leaving Microsoft). As I understand it, an entry-level analyst at Goldman, or a first-year associate can go on to earning seven figures if they do everything correctly.

  126. The banks still insist that they dress like adults.

    How adults used to dress. It makes for an interesting power dynamic:

  127. I have to pack lunches this summer for DS. I’m losing any Totebagger credential I have as I’ve been throwing in a lunchable, gogurt, cheese sticks, granola bars, and fruit drinks in the bag and calling it good. I’m pretty sure I should be making smiley face sandwiches and cut-up fruit etc. instead of all plastic-wrapped food.

  128. For the average computer job, the starting pay is high (high five figures out of college, maybe low six).

    But, we’re not talking about the average. We’re talking about the brightest and most ambitious. I’d argue that, per unit of effort, they have a better chance at a big payday in Silicon Valley working in tech than they do on Wall Street.

  129. Google/Facebook/Microsoft/Apple are full of the “best and brightest” – but people who stay there for years don’t often advance – financially or otherwise. Is that true at the big financial companies?

  130. “An entry-level coder at Microsoft/Google (or even worse, a SysAdmin at some quasitechnical company) has no clear path to making 500k.”

    @Ada: (i) exponential growth opening new opportunities and/or (ii) stock grants and options.

    I suspect that, in large part, the grads who want to go work for a tech company don’t have a clear vision of their career path because there is no such thing — the industry has changed so quickly that no one can predict a reliable path to $500K. But the “story” of the industry is the generic worker who was Employee #23 who either (i) became VP because the company grew so fast that the early folks got great upwards mobility, and/or (ii) who got a bunch of options that became worth a bazillion dollars. GS is like investing — if you put in ridiculous hours and do good work for a number of years, you will get a really good salary and bonus. Tech is like playing the lottery — you may or may not work as hard as at GS, but you have the possibility of hitting the options/stock grants bonanza if you pick the right spot (and at least they’ll pay you a decent wage while you’re there).

    Plus I doubt most coders going to work for Google envision staying there their whole career, just like I doubt most entry-level finance types are looking at GS as permanent employment — it’s a great first job for the resume to give them the experience they will need to get the job they really want at some other company. Which circles back to: if you’re not planning to stay, why not pick the easier job to start with, especially if it gives you a chance of hitting the jackpot?

  131. Is that true at the big financial companies?

    Goldman is again rethinking the way it structures bankers’ early years at the firm. The bank is dangling carrots, including promises to speed the path to promotions and eliminating some of the grunt work that often falls to younger employees.

    It seems people were and are leaving because they don’t feel they are moving ahead far enough fast enough and there are better opportunities elsewhere.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/goldman-sachs-brings-back-junior-banker-program-1446753898

  132. Google/Facebook/Microsoft/Apple are full of the “best and brightest” – but people who stay there for years don’t often advance – financially or otherwise.

    I have a few (very few) friends who started at Apple and Microsoft right out of college in the 80s. Their titles were never much, but their portfolios are lovely to behold. My friend who left in the late 80s because he hated Steve Jobs’ guts occasionally reflects on the fact that he’d have $100M now if he’d stayed.

  133. LFB – thank you for the thoughtful response. I think my experience is colored by the fact that I have a front row seat on the technology market and imaginary experience in everything else. I know a few people (friends of friends) who “won” the tech lottery in the late 90s, or early 2000s. I don’t know anyone since then. I’m under the impression that rank-and-file workers (even elite technical people) don’t “win” in IPOs anymore. Something to do with how companies that are valued?

    A quick scan of the IPOs from 2015 makes me think that none of these generated any 20-something millionaires. http://www.inc.com/jeremy-quittner/what-the-2015-market-for-initial-public-offerings-really-looked-like.html

  134. On principle, the Brits should have an open door policy- well at least easy immigration for people from countries they colonized so brutally-for equal number of years they colonized them.
    If you can give it, you should take it too. All the different religions and cultures were not a problem when colonizing those areas no? And they also have problems with Poles not just middle easterners.
    Even though I am opposed to uncontrolled immigration or letting whoever in, in the name of humanitarian crisis, I have no sympathy for the Brits. Not surprisingly, the majority vote to leave came from areas with higher retired population, and under educated and underemployed population.

    Having said that, I am looking forward to major pound devaluation!

  135. Agree with Rhett, it’s not the IPO, it’s the acquisition that makes you the $$.

  136. And, it’s not always acquisitions by another technology company. Sometimes the product you’ve built (an app, or a game) is bought by a non-tech company for them to use/own.

  137. Ada – My son, if he stays with his current company, will eventually get a modest payday on his stock options when the venture capitalists and original investors decide it is time to cash out. His options are worthless till then unless there is a “cash event” (I think that is the term) in which some new investor wants to buy shares or options and the company decides to let the hoi polloi sell their options rather than issue additional shares. The company overestimated the long term market for its high end product and failed to anticipate mass market alternatives, but VC guys are not going to take a loss, so they can broker a sale. The question is whether rank and file employees with options will still be around at that point.

  138. Interesting. Do you think the Harvard snowflakes who are saying “no” to Goldman Sachs are heading off to work for these pre-acquisition companies? Or are they becoming employee #58,000 at Google?

  139. @Ada — I actually agree with you. But that’s the “story” that’s out there, and that’s why people chase those jobs, regardless of the likelihood of it actually happening. Pointing out all the people who didn’t hit the jackpot begs the question — that’s just what happens when the real math comes calling. The key is what they thought when they chose that career path. And I bet they thought they’d be the guy with the golden ticket by now (just like all the people I see in line with me for MegaMillions tickets).

    I’m probably a little closer to the other side of things — to me, BigLaw or BigFinance don’t look anything like a guaranteed $500K/yr. If you are in those fields, you know going in that maybe 1 or 2 out of 100 will make partner, and it’s up-or-out after about year 2. The illusion of security and financial stability in those kinds of jobs is just that. OTOH, the lure of the lottery is strong (and math skills are weak) — and it’s even stronger when you see people who are just like you (or younger/less-educated/who otherwise seem to “deserve” it less/etc.) hitting it big. (I have a cousin whose DH worked at MS in a generic tech job for maybe 10 years in the ’80s-early ’90s. He retired probably 20 years ago now, in his 30s, and neither one of them has worked a day since. That’s the first time I said, dang, I chose the wrong path).

    Fundamentally, none of us had any clue coming out of college what our career was going to turn out like. Except maybe Milo. :-) It’s all a crapshoot in one way or another. So if I had the choice of earning $150-500K/yr for 3-10 years, working at least 70-hr weeks that whole time, with a 2% chance of making partner at the end of 10-12 years, vs. making $90-150K/yr for 2-3 years, working anywhere from 40-80 hr weeks depending on cycles/product launches, with the plan to then jump to a startup that might go stratospheric, I’d sure be tempted by the one that offers the potential jackpot.

    (Ok, so personally, I opted out — I chose the stability of a smaller specialty firm over the possibility of either a stratospheric salary or stratospheric stock options. But if I had to choose one of those two above, I’d probably choose the latter.)

  140. “Do you think the Harvard snowflakes who are saying “no” to Goldman Sachs are heading off to work for these pre-acquisition companies? Or are they becoming employee #58,000 at Google?”

    I think they are starting off as employee #58,000 at Google to get the experience/connections to jump to a startup in 2 years, or to pay the bills while they build their own startup on the side.

  141. Ada,

    I’m not sure. But, Scarlett raised an interesting point. With Harvard, MIT, Cal Tech, Princeton etc. going tuition free for those would have to take out loans, far fewer kids have $1000/month in student loans hanging over their head. With that, they are in a position to take a risk with the lower salaries compensated with equity available at a startup.

  142. There’s a lot of luck to success in I-banking, along with the intense effort. I had friends who went to Wall Street and got laid off in ’01-’02 or ’08-’09, and they were every bit as skilled and hardworking as others who are now multimillionaires. They just chose M&A or real estate at the wrong historical moment.

    Among my classmates, very few were directly choosing between Wall Street and Silicon Valley by senior year, because that decision was effectively made when they chose Econ or CS as majors years earlier. (Math majors could choose later :) )

    I know more Wall Street financial success stories than SV, but that is probably affected by my location.

  143. When my child started out in finance (not I banking) a mere 16 years ago with her elite scholarship funded degree, top college graduates included a larger percentage of the traditional upwardly mobile strivers who were definitely not “snowflakes” as the term is now used. I can’t imagine someone with family resources to whom the term snowflake can reasonably be applied choosing to work for a grueling hazing type environment that has no “coolness” cachet no matter what the financial prospects.

  144. I think it also depends on the school you graduate from. If it is tech centric like Stanford, Cal Tech, MIT or even any of the other “techs” it is normal to go start your own business or join another start up. If a job at an established tech firm comes your way, you may consider it but not line up automatically to take a job at a brand name firm.

  145. Starting salaries for first year lawyers at top NYC and Magic circle (UK) firms just hit $180k, excluding bonuses. For reference that is about double from the late 90s/early 00s. (There were some big jumps along the way.)

  146. ATM – and for 7/8th year associates you’re now making a $310K base. Not a bad gig even in NYC. Law firms seem to do big raises every 8 or 9 years and then nothing in between.

  147. ATM – and for 7/8th year associates you’re now making a $310K base. Not a bad gig even in NYC.

    Wouldn’t that work out to be about $100/hr for ever hour you’re in the office if you needed to bill 2200 hours a year? The google says you’d have to be in the office for 3058 hours in order to bill 2200. That’s not a lot of money per hour.

  148. Rhett – Associates are billed out at about $500 per hour and up, partners much more. All those hours is exactly why I left BigLaw. The General Counsel at Bank of America (I believe) questioned these raises – most internal counsel at banks are not paid on this scale – since what value could these first years possibly add to be paid that much? A lot of first years’ time is written off during billing.

    Atlanta – not a bad gig if you love it and are willing to put in the time (and are single and need to pay off law school loans).

  149. ATM – I guess as long as they are willing to write off a lot of the first year’s time, then that’s an internal problem. DH’s firm has moved to higher base salaries (although they have not matched in NY) and then additional comp and bonuses are doled out based on cash in and not hours billed. This is great if you’re in a practice whose clients pay your full rates (DH can bill 1700 or 1800 hours and still get there) but not so great when you may be a litigator whose practice group sometimes takes cases on contingency. If you’re an associate it’s just luck of the draw, as I can’t imagine knowing this going in.

  150. Rhett $100 an hour might be low but what are the other options for these folks? Really smart people with general rather than narrow technical skills, usually not heavily quantitative and not necessarily business-minded.

  151. “Looking on line a junior analyst at Goldman can be expected to work 7am to 11pm up to 7 days a week. Google looks like more 7-5:30 or 10 to 8pm and usually no weekends.”

    That’s pretty close to what it was for me when I was in my 20s. I, along with my friends and most of my colleagues, worked hard and played hard.

    Looking back, I have no regrets about that choice. Even if I had the GS-type option, the Google-type option looks a lot better. So I didn’t make the huge amounts, but I had a great time while still making enough to set myself up to not need a large income later.

  152. “But, it’s not IPO’s that are the big money for many (most). It’s being bought.”

    Back in my SV days, the goal of many startups was to be acquired by Cisco.

  153. “Or maybe as their own kids get shut out of the HSS lottery”

    I don’t think HSS admission is a lottery; if it is, it’s like the NBA lottery, where URM get a bunch of extra ping pong balls, low SES applicants get some extra, and Asian kids get far fewer.

    A number of people have made the case for HSS admission by lottery among applicants meeting certain minimum criteria.

  154. “Nobody goes to WDW for one day.”

    Perhaps not WDW, but a lot of people go to Disneyland for a day.

    I can imagine that for a lot of totebaggers in the NE, a week in Paris with a day of that spent in Disneyland is more appealing than a week in Orlando.

  155. I don’t think there’s a lot of randomness to HSS admission. E.g., if you’re an URM with 1300+ SAT (new one) or 2000+ SAT (previous version), you’re nearly certainly going to get into nearly any HSS.

    Lack of transparency randomness.

    OTOH, I guess you’re one of the hundreds (thousands?) of kids from a good HS, not URM, SAT (new) >1400, GPA >3.8 (UW), no big hook, it may seem like a lottery.

  156. How many of the applicants to highly selective schools are really qualified and how many are just applying as a lottery ticket? This blog has made me interested enough to track where local high achievers are attending and this year I noted HHPSS (each letter represents one admission), although the Barrett Honors program at Arizona State got the most top students. This is from the ~750 graduates at three local high schools.

    I remember when one of this year’s high achievers was born (her mom was in my area, she’s a valedictorian, NMF, AP something or other) and I strongly doubt she applied to any highly selective schools. Her parents have a probably mid-to-high-five digit income, lots of hobbies and she’s going into environmental science because she probably cares deeply about it, based on her parents.

  157. WCE, that valedictorian sounds like she’d have had a decent shot at getting into a HSS. Valedictorian/NMF indicates she meets or exceeds minimum academic requirements, and my guess is that coming from an area that sends few kids, even the top kids, to HSS makes her more attractive to HSS than other kids with similar academics that come from schools that send mulitple kids to HSS every year. Sub-six figure income means she’d qualify for a lot of financial aid.

    I’ve been pushing DS to consider Barrett as a safety (per prepscholar, ASU acceptance rate is 80%; if I plug in his SAT and GPA, it’s over 99%). A couple years or so ago, a poster mentioned Barrett, so I checked it out. They offer 100% tuition and fees and admission to Barrett to NMF. I’ve also read some very positive reviews on CC.

    OTOH, temps were up around 118 there recently.

  158. “How many of the applicants to highly selective schools are really qualified and how many are just applying as a lottery ticket?”

    At my kids’ school, about 25% of CO 2015 applied to Stanford, and I’m pretty sure most of them didn’t have a realistic shot, and from what I’ve seen on Naviance, my guess is that they get a lot of similarly unrealistic applications from kids in CA.

  159. Based on the quality of the kids going to Barrett from my area, I encourage your DS to apply. It looks like a draw for bright kids with moderate household income levels, which means the social scene should include low/no cost activities. I suspect it’s also diverse, including both race/language and family size. I can imagine the talented, bilingual daughters of a colleague going there. FAFSA EFC is not doable because younger siblings are in church private school and grandparents are in a country with financial issues and require support.

  160. Yes, for NMF, Barrett (along with others such as Bama, Oklahoma, Idaho, Arizona, etc) is quite affordable for NMF.

    FYI, I think (but I’m not sure) Iowa also gives generous merit aid, including NMF scholarships.

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